Individuals in the state of California are not allowed to marry someone if they are already married. This is prosecuted as bigamy. However, there is a similar charge to bigamy, prosecuted under Penal Code 284, and that is the charge of marrying the husband or wife of another.
PC 284 is the charge the unmarried person would face for marrying an already married person, and it is a felony. This means that individuals convicted of this charge may face prison time and heavy fines. Contact the Simmrin Law Group for additional answers to these and other legal questions today.
Breaking Down Penal Code 284
California law views the active marriage of two individuals as a legally-binding contract. According to Penal Code 284, any individual accused of marrying someone who is already married can face prison time of up to three years.
It’s not only marriages that are off the table, though. California amended PC 284 in 2016. Previously the statute stated that unattached individuals couldn’t marry “the husband or wife of another.” Today, the amendment states that any person who marries someone legally participating in a domestic partnership can face felony charges.
However, the code also states that the only people who can face these kinds of charges must have “knowingly” or “willfully” engaged in their multi-person marriage. Those strict definitions mean that parties facing these charges can work with an attorney to establish their defenses.
For a free legal consultation with a marrying the husband or wife of another lawyer serving California, call (310) 896-2723
PC 284 and Bigamy
From a technical standpoint, PC 284 describes bigamy. However, California addresses multi-person marriages and bigamy using different codes.
Bigamy is the practice of marrying more than one person at a time. California identifies bigamy as a wobbler crime under PC 281. This means that parties accused of bigamy may face either misdemeanor or felony charges. The severity of a person’s charges hinges on the level of deception that went into the proposed marriage.
If a person marries someone who is already married, he or she could face both PC 283 (bigamy) and PC 284 charges. A criminal defense lawyer at the Simmrin Law Group can help you fight these charges by building up your defense.
California Marrying the Husband or Wife of Another Lawyer Near Me (310) 896-2723
Exceptions to PC 284
There are some exceptions to PC 284. For example, you can marry someone who was previously married if their marriage has legally ended. If a person’s marriage ends in divorce, or if the court annuls or dissolves their marriage, the individual is free to marry again. You can, however, marry someone if:
- Their spouse was absent for five consecutive years, and
- The person believed their spouse was dead
These exceptions hold true throughout the state of California.
Domestic Partnerships and California’s Changing Laws
PC 284 does not solely apply to marriage. Individuals could face PC 284 charges if they become the registered domestic partner of someone else’s husband or wife. That said, California has begun addressing the legality of multi-parent households with more flexibility.
As of 2013, California’s Senate Bill 274 allows two or more parents to be recognized on a child’s birth certificate as that child’s legal guardians. This bill passed while three partnered men fought to have all their names included on their child’s birth certificate. While the three men could not marry, Senate Bill 274 allows them equal opportunities to legally protect and care for their child.
Senate Bill 274’s passing does not indicate that California intends to decriminalize multi-person marriages in the future. Rather, the bill reflects the thin line through which California legally acknowledges and permits polyamory relationships. It also gives multi-person couples legal precedent in marital suits claiming that multi-parent households endanger children.
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Penalties Under PC 284
PC 284 is considered a felony in the state of California. Felony charges are very serious. For example, a conviction for marrying the husband or wife of someone else could result in:
- At least $5,000 in fines
- Up to three years of time behind bars
The court may award probation for a PC 284 conviction. While on probation, individuals have to obey the orders handed down to them by the court. Disobeying a court order could result in a probation violation. Individuals who violate their probation could:
- Face harsher penalties
- Have time added on to their probationary period
- Be sent to jail or prison
Our criminal defense attorneys can help you if you have been accused of a probation violation.
Defenses Against PC 284
You have some defenses available to you if you have been accused of marrying someone’s spouse. The Simmrin Law Group can help you demonstrate that:
You Did Not Know About the Person’s Other Marriage
You should not face a PC 284 conviction if you married someone while believing they were single. Perhaps the person you married did not tell you about their past marriage. If you had reason to believe you were engaging in a legal marriage, one of our lawyers can help you.
You Were Coerced Into an Unlawful Marriage
If you were threatened into marrying someone who was already married, you can present evidence of coercion in your court case. A criminal defense lawyer can elaborate on the circumstances that led to your charge and direct a court’s attention to the party that misled or threatened you.
You Fit One of the PC 284 Exceptions
There are exceptions to PC 284 charges. If you married someone who had a past marriage that ended, for example, you may be able to avoid a PC 284 conviction. You could also avoid a conviction if you had reason to believe that your spouse’s partner was no longer alive.
Work With the Simmrin Law Group Today to Fight a PC 284 Charge in California
If you were accused of marrying the husband or wife of another, the Simmrin Law Group can help. We can work with you to build up your defense against a Penal Code 284 charge. Call us right now for a free case consultation, or complete our online contact form. Let us help today!